Shotguns cocked, ready. Fathers stood in the beds of their trucks surrounding the local high school. They wanted their children out – NOW!
South Florida – the land of rednecks, Mafia, KKK, packing houses, prejudice, and a church on every corner. Throw in the Vietnam War, drugs, free love, and Hard Rock along with a state mandate to force school integration, and the town was ripe for volatility.
Not a place of choice, but of necessity. My father had been sent to Thailand during the War so we had to move off the Air Force Base we called home – a barbed wire community of multicultural neighborhoods and school. Experience and example taught us that ‘prejudice’ was not an option.
The year was 1969 – two weeks before graduation. The volatile consequences of a prejudiced school system fulfilling the Florida State mandate for ‘forced busing’ gripped my high school that day in fear.
Ironically, the combined student bodies as a whole tried to adjust to the transition. But behind the scenes, forces of only a few were secretly planning to disrupt whatever progress could be made – progress long overdue. My high school had become a test case, a trial run to work out the kinks of their plan. And Government Forces had hoped to intercede. They missed it by one day.
Rumors spread slow and steady. Hushed whispers and quick glances heightened suspicions and anxiety.
And the riots began, in the restroom, before my eyes.
A group of smiling, chatty girls walked in with paper grocery bags and began to change their clothing. They were laughing … secretive. I didn’t catch on at first to the ‘why,’ but I knew fear when I saw it in the mirror. The aura encircling my body was blazing with it and I was sure they would notice. I continued to look away. I had already faced the threat of rape and other personal assaults – I wasn’t looking for more.
They paid no attention to me, and left. (Was the aura a shield from God?)
A few boys had already been prepared for months. A slight squeeze exposed the switchblades in the canes they carried.
My first instinct was to get back to class. Guttural, deep roars interrupted the unnatural quiet of the hallway as I began my way. The menacing chorus turned the corner. I froze. A pack of rioting students was a split second away from my face. I ducked into the gym close by and saw one teacher already down – out cold. And he was a big man, a teacher who cared. (How did they not see me? I wondered as I heard the thunder of running feet pass by.)
The person kneeling by him frantically waved me out of there. I couldn’t see the danger, but sensed it. I quickly left the safe haven I thought I had found.
The office! Get to the office!
Another hallway – another way blocked by rioters who battered anyone in their way.
I prayed my way and made it, but all the rooms were over-crowded with terrified, dazed students – black and white. One locked gaze of confused fear leant to a bond of understanding as we took turns using the phone.
Click, clack! Guns and angry fathers surrounded the school.
Weaving through the trucks I asked myself, Is this the way it’ll feel during the end times?
‘Special Government Agents’ were called in to patrol the hallways to protect ALL the students. It took one day to realize it wasn’t enough.
Then the school principal, weak with a looming heart attack, resorted to an unequivocal solution – he called ALL the mothers personally.
Each volunteer mother was assigned an agent and stationed throughout the school grounds. They had the same agent, at the same time, at the same place, everyday; and these trained ‘Special Government Agents’ were the ones depending upon a Mother’s influence. It took two days for calm and order to settle into a routine, and the class of ’69 graduated peacefully – mission accomplished.
No one but the moms and their agents knew of the threats to their own lives.
The rest of the nation heard only of the riots, rapes and violence, and all the sordid issues implicating the reasons why. It only gave more fodder for the illusive force, and its disruptive few to incite more riots in schools throughout the state. The nation never had the chance to hear about the solution.
Maybe it still should.
Moms – God’s Special Agents … unequivocally.
*Author’s note: My mother was one of the many who volunteered to help bring order back to the high school as they faced danger every day. She had her own Government Agent from beginning to end who expressed his unequivocal belief in a Mother’s influence.
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